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Richard Siddle, Editor's Blog May 8

Published:  11 May, 2009

There have hardly been many Champagne cork-popping moments to put a smile on the drinks industry in recent months, but next week's London International Wine Fair is the perfect excuse to open a bit of bubbly. In more ways than one.

Next week's fair will see the launch of Champagne house, Duvay-Leroy's, new Champagne cork - well an aluminium and plastic one to be exact.

The device, dubbed the Maestro, looks like the kind of thing you would find on a bottle of beer and is the kind of cornflake-choking innovation that critics of the wine industry claim we see far too little off.

It will no doubt be one of many talking points at next week's fair which promises to be one of the most important in recent memory with the trade even more in need of information and inspiration than normal.

There is, not surprisingly, a clear emphasis at this year's fair on the state of the economy and ideas aplenty on how to dig yourself out of whatever hole you may find yourself in. Our own debate, on May 13, will look to do exactly that with some sagely advice from the likes of Oddbins supremo Simon Baile on how to keep innovating against all odds.

Which reminds me of a pertinent tale from the world of independent retailing. A convenience store owner found himself against a rival Tesco Local that had opened across the road. Not surprisingly he soon started to lose many of his loyal customers, including a steady stream of anglers who used to come to his store two to three times a day from the trout farm behind his store.

Faced with losing hundreds of pounds in potential trade a week he came up with the cunning wheeze of installing a live bait machine in his store - resulting in all the anglers giving up on the lure of Tesco and returning to his store.

It is that kind of thinking that sorts the wheat from the chaff in these times and
whilst there may not be any live bait machines on show, there will certainly be enough to inspire and breathe fresh life into our own businesses.